Best Films of 2013
February 10, 2014
Rogvargas (11 articles)
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Best Films of 2013

As a new and hopefully a continuing contributing columnist to the 1200Dreams site, not only do I have a massive love for music but I also have a love and passion for the cinema as well. Music and films is entertainment as well as a culture and art which goes hand in hand. So here’s my first write up focusing on the best of 2013 in films.

Yes, I know. Its 2014 and we’re in mid-February. I’m a busy person you know, or maybe you didn’t ow! As always, I am usually last one out the gate, and you’re no doubt worn out by all this end of the year nonsense by now. Since the Oscars are a few weeks away, this serves well as a basis on what has been nominated or at least on what could’ve and or should’ve been nominated. Well, no preamble here, let’s get to it. Here’s MY personal best of 2013 list.

Actually, I do need to say I know I tend to offer up a bit more than just a run-of-the-mill Top 10 list, but if you think 10 is enough then start reading at number 10. 🙂

Last year was a very good year with tons of films that were actually very good, so it was quite difficult to bring up my top 20. The fact that no one movie stood out last year is proof that there were so many good ones. It was a very good year, and the proof of that is that this was one of the most difficult “Best of” lists I’ve ever put together. I was even debating between my number 1 – 5 choices, but in the end I went with the film that clung to my brain and troubled me deeply the more I contemplated it.

To keep this piece at a reasonable length, I’ll write up blurbs for the last 10, and just list the rest of my Top 20. Here are my top twenty films that I truly enjoyed for 2013.

#20: THE BROKEN CIRCLE BREAKDOWN (dir. FELIX VAN GROENINGEN)

#19: LONE SURVIVOR (dir. PETER BERG)

#18: BEFORE MIDNIGHT (dir. RICHARD LINKLATER)

#17: THE HUNT (JAGTEN (ORIGINAL TITLE)) (dir. THOMAS VINTERBERG)

#16: NEBRASKA (dir. ALEXANDER PAYNE)

#15: SHORT TERM 12 (dir. DESTIN CRETTON)

#14: DON JON (dir. JOSEPH GORDON LEVITT)

#13: DRUG WARS (DU ZHAN (ORIGINAL TITLE) (dir. JOHNNIE TO)

#12: THE DALLAS BUYERS CLUB (dir. JEAN-MARC VALLEE)

#11: BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOR (LA VIE D’ADELE (ORIGINAL TITLE)) (dir. ABDELLATIF KECHICHE)

NUMBER TEN: BLUE JASMINE (dir. WOODY ALLEN)

You can probably ask current Best Actress Oscar holder Jennifer Lawrence about the best performance in cinema history and she will name Cate Blanchett’s turn here. And it’s easy to see why: Blanchett’s nervy Jasmine is well over the verge of the nervous breakdown following the breakdown of her marriage and her pampered lifestyle. Turning on a dime from cool society doyenne to raving neurotic, her performance anchors the film – ably assisted by Sally Hawkins, in particular, as her more grounded and compassionate sister. The result is yet another return to form for that hardy perennial individual, Woody Allen.

NUMBER NINE: PRISONERS (dir. DENIS VILLANUEVE)

I’ve seen this movie twice within a month and that should tell you something… It has something, something very scary and downright frightening. The disappearance of a child. I’m not a father nor a parent but I couldn’t even fathom or imagine the roller-coaster hell you can go through emotionally and physically.As much an endurance test this was as a viewing experience, Villeneuve’s fiery incidences throws the viewer into a parent’s hell – what if your child was abducted? – and then tightens the screws: what if you identified the person responsible? Where would you stop? The moral dilemma is compelling, but this is carried by the committed performances of Jackman’s increasingly desperate father, Jake Gyllenhaal’s professionally furious cop and Paul Dano’s all-too-punchable suspect. The tone’s as wintry as the perpetually snowy weather of its setting, but this one will hang around in the back of your mind long after spring.

NUMBER EIGHT: RUSH (dir. RON HOWARD)

I didn’t know what to expect but I do know that Ron Howard is a bonafide film director, that much I know. Here is fictional proof that Formula One is becoming the most cinematic of sports. This story of clashing egos and contrasting styles in the quest for the driver’s championship is a compelling portrayal of ambition, determination and going really fast in circles. Chris Hemsworth takes off Thor’s goody two shoes (and everything else) as the hard-living James Hunt while Daniel Brühl is his more considered rival. At times it looks like it might become a fight to the death, but beyond the mortal peril it’s the combination of bitter competition and mutual respect that gives this its edge. Daniel Brühl performance as Nicki Lauda is a memorable one and by one of the best in 2013 as supporting actor only equally or out-rivaled by Jared Leto’s role in “Dallas Buyers Club”. Meanwhile, Chris Hemsworth and Daniel Brühl laid the groundwork for “American Hustle” by wigging out to 70s fashions.

*Note: Brühl was quite shafted in not getting the best supporting nod to the point that an investigation is in order!

NUMBER SEVEN: INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS (dir. COEN BROTHERS)

The Coen Brothers are at it again. How is it that this film—a superior Coen’s project, if not quite an at-their-peak Coen’s project. Can we put a few of this year’s movies in the bank for next year? In any event, I love the humor of the film, I love how the movie comes full circle. It’s hard to pinpoint one great thing about the film when there are so many things to appreciate. I still don’t know where it ranks in the Coen Brothers catalog for me but time will tell. Also, welcome to the big time, Oscar Isaac. You’ve earned it.

NUMBER SIX: CAPTAIN PHILLIPS (dir. PAUL GREENGRASS)

If ever there was a story primed to receive the big-screen treatment it is the harrowing ordeal of Captain Richard Phillips and the 2009 hijacking of U.S. cargo ship Alabama by Somali pirates. When you throw in Oscar winner Tom Hanks (Who did not get an Oscar Nod BTW, a true damn shame IMHO!) as your cinematic hero and Oscar nominee Paul Greengrass (“The Bourne Supremacy” as director) and combine them with edge-of-your seat/based-on-a-true-story action, you have one of the most satisfying movie going experiences of the year! The film making is supreme in cranking the tension and keeping it high – even if you know how it all ends. The unknowns cast as the pirates, in particular Barkhad Abdi as Musa, are flawless as the powers ranged against them line up, and Hanks is as good as ever, particularly in a ravaged final scene.

NUMBER FIVE: 12 YEARS A SLAVE (dir. STEVE McQUEEN)

An important film and one that’s most probable to capture the golden bald guy. An utter tour de force by director Steve McQueen, a beautiful and harrowing reminder of the power of cinema. Yes, it’s hard to watch “12 Years a Slave”, but that’s the point; by depicting slavery so starkly, the Director forces us to face its true horror! Great work here!

NUMBER FOUR: THE ACT OF KILLING (dir. JOSHUA OPPENHEIMER)

It’s a bad trip – A documentary that documents a higher and more frightening reality. A film that explores evil and torture in Indonesia, and how evil men try to exorcise their own demons, is the most compelling film I’ve seen this year! Joshua Oppenheimer asked admitted Indonesian mass murderers to write, direct, and reenact their atrocities from 40-plus years ago. They rise to the occasion with alacrity, and the result is one of the most lucid portraits of evil you’ll ever see. But I cannot think of a film in 2013 that has given me such strong emotional impact and power.

NUMBER THREE: THE WOLF OF WALL STREET (dir. MARTIN SCORCESE)

Martin Scorcese is my favorite director, well second to Stanley Kubrick, has not lost his edge. That said, I’m not the least surprised that he brings it in “The Wolf of Wall Street”. This is his fifth and I think his best collaboration with Leonardo DiCaprio. This adaptation of Jordan Belfort’s memoir of unlimited greed and debauchery in the financial world of the early ’90s has the manic energy of Scorsese classics like “Goodfellas.” It’s also flat-out hilarious, with Jonah Hill heading up a deep bench of comedic talents. The film does run long, and it could be seen as unintentionally glamorizing the reckless behavior it actually decries. Nonetheless, it’s still the most potent jolt of pure cinema you’ll see this year. Fast, funny, and remarkably filthy! Scorsese’s new film is an irresistible display of cinematic technique, I would say Goodfellas retold as a farce.

NUMBER TWO: GRAVITY (dir. ALFONSO CUARON)

A top ten favorite for many in 2013. Leaving aside the fact that Gravity is a technological marvel that reduces VFX artists to giddy pools of sheer disbelief, it’s an excellent piece of storytelling and an astonishing piece of cinema. Sandra Bullock is the astronaut lost in space, and she’s never been better (FYI: The ONLY performance that I’ve liked her in… EVER!), but it’s Cuarón and his team who emerge with the lion’s share of the plaudits, constructing an impossibly tense example of pure cinema thrill.

NUMBER ONE:……………………

HER (dir. SPIKE JONZE)

Finally, an original story and done in the USA mind you. I thank you, Spike!!! Spike Jonze is truly the man when it comes to creating movies that help us see the world in startlingly funny and touching new ways. And in “Her”, set in the near future, A Sci-Fi film of sorts, we see Theodore (a sublime, soulful Joaquin Phoenix) falls hard for his computer operating system (voiced with humor, heat and heart by Scarlett Johansson) and makes us believe it. This is personal film making at its glorious, groundbreaking peak. A love story of a different kind!

Among the twenty I mentioned above, there were other really good films in 2013 that I enjoyed watching and I would be slighting them without giving them some love. Here are some notable Mentions: THE GREAT BEAUTY (LA GRAN BELLEZZA), FRUITVALE STATION, PHILOMENA, STOKER, THE GRANDMASTER, ALL IS LOST, SAVING MR. BANKS, BLACKFISH, THE PAST (Le Passe), PACIFIC RIM, THE WIND RISES (Best Animated feature IMHO), THE WORLD’S END, STAR TREK: INTO DARKNESS, STORIES WE TELL, MUD, FROZEN, THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG, 20 FEET FROM STARDOM, THE SQUARE, ERNEST ET CELESTINE, THE SQUARE, WADJDA, THE CONJURING and OMAR.

Ehhh…. Just for fun, here are my worst films of 2014.

#10: THE LONE RANGER (ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ…)

#9: IDENTIFY THIEF (AWFUL!)

#8: PARKER (THE GREAT TAYLOR HACKFORD DIRECTED THIS??? OH, JENNIFER LOPEZ IS IN IT… ‘NUFF SAID!!!)

#7: HANGOVER PART III (STOP IT, STOP IT, STOOOOOP ITTTTT ALREADY!)

#6: R.I.P.D (THIS IS WHERE THIS FILM HAS GONE… LAID TO REST!)

#5: THE PURGE (EXACTLY WHAT I WANTED TO DO AFTER WATCHING THIS PIECE OF DRECK…)

#4: WHITE HOUSE DOWN (TOTALLY GARBAGE… NOT EVEN REMOTELY PLAUSIBLE!)

#3: A GOOD DAY TO DIE HARD (A GOOD DAY IS NEEDED FOR THIS SERIES TO FINALLY DIE…)

#2: AFTER EARTH (THIS IS WHERE THIS FILM NEEDS TO END UP… “AFTER EARTH”! PROBABLY ONE OF THE WORST FILM OF THE DECADE!!! A POSSIBLE CAREER ENDER FOR M. NIGHT SHYAMALAN!)

BUT WHAT CAN POSSIBLY TOP “AFTER EARTH”???

DRUM ROLE PLEASE….

NUMERO UNO: BULLET TO THE HEAD –THAT WAS MY INTENTION AFTER WATCHING THIS MESS!!!

Well that’s it. Hope you enjoy reading it as much I had writing it. 2014 is looking okay although not enamored with the releases but hey, you never know!? Well, SEE YOU SOON…AT THE MOVIES!!!!

-ROGER

Rogvargas

Rogvargas

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